Keeping our tamariki smiling

    Bonita Mackey accompanies a recent group of tamariki visiting Gisborne HospitalBonita Mackey accompanies a recent group of tamariki visiting Gisborne Hospital for dental procedures under general anesthetic

Once a month, a small group of tamariki visiting Gisborne Hospital for significant dental procedures receive a unique kind of awhi from the Hauora Tairāwhiti Oral Health Service.

Dressed in a plush giraffe ‘onesie’ on the way to meet with our most recent group of tamariki, Oral Health Programme Support Bonita Mackey talks about the importance of making children feel as comfortable as possible on the day.

“For a young child, visiting the hospital can be an unknown experience, and can cause anxiety for tamaraki who are preparing to have a dental procedure. My job is to make that experience as easy as possible for the child and their whānau” says Bonita.

“Building rapport with the child and their whānau in the lead up to the procedure goes a long way. Before the big day, I visit the tamariki and whānau in their home, or speak with them on the phone to walk the whānau through the process of coming into hospital the next day. I talk to the parents/caregiver about how their tamariki are doing and if they need any support getting to and from the hospital.”

“When I see the child the next day, I’m there to help make the experience as stress-free as possible. Whether that means wearing an animal costume or playing air hockey, I’m there for the tamariki and their whānau”.

There are a variety of reasons why a child might need to visit Gisborne Hospital for a dental procedure. “General anaesthetic (GA) is a last resort for our team, however when treatment is unable to be performed safely at our fixed clinic and in our mobile dental units, GA in a hospital setting will be required”, says Bonita.

“It can be a scary experience for tamariki and whānau, but supporting them through it is one of the most rewarding parts of my job”.

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